Vic Carucci's Bills Wake-Up Call: Whaley NFL Executive of the Year candidate? Believe it - The Buffalo News

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Vic Carucci's Bills Wake-Up Call: Whaley NFL Executive of the Year candidate? Believe it

The shovels were out and waiting after the Buffalo Bills lost to the New York Jets in their second game of the season.

That was the night the defense, it was widely presumed, showed its true self after a fairly credible performance in the season-opening loss at Baltimore. How bad would things get without the Bills' top two draft picks, outside linebacker  Shaq Lawson and inside linebacker Reggie Ragland? Without suspended defensive tackle Marcell Dareus?

Clearly, there was insufficient depth within the front seven as Ryan Fitzpatrick sat back and picked apart the secondary, which also didn't do itself very proud that night.

And then came the recurrence of Sammy Watkins' foot trouble, which would lead to his being placed on injured reserve (after two forgettable games of being active) and bring back the familiar criticism of why the Bills gave up so much to make a fragile receiver the fourth overall pick of the draft?

And by "the Bills," critics meant General Manager Doug Whaley.

The 0-2 hole that so many skeptics were certain would become 0-4 was largely his fault. Blame Rex Ryan, too, but Whaley created most of the mess with a roster simply not good enough to at least win a game and perhaps two the Bills were "supposed" to win.

So here's a question? Do you know who is very much a legitimate early candidate to be named NFL Executive of the Year? That would be Doug Whaley.

Here's why: Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown.

Alexander is the outside linebacker starting in place of Lawson. He's also the NFL leader in sacks with seven. Whaley signed him to a free-agent contract that carries a $600,000 cap hit. To lend some perspective, that's $10.9 million lower than the cap hit of Denver's Von Miller, the Super Bowl MVP who ranks second in the league with 6.5 sacks.

Brown is the inside linebacker starting in place of Ragland. He's also tied with Carolina's Luke Kuechly for the NFL lead in tackles with 57. Here's more perspective: Kuechly's cap hit is $6 million. Brown's is $1.25 million.

Look at it another way. If Lawson and Ragland were beginning their careers with the type of production the Bills were getting from Alexander and Brown, Whaley would be heralded as a personnel genius.

You want to trash him for the Watkins' trade? Go ahead. But give him credit for making the deal that landed LeSean McCoy, who has literally carried most of the offense the past few weeks.

You want to blast him for giving Dareus that $100-million contract only to see him miss a total of five games (including the 2015 season-opener) due to suspension and one because of a hamstring pull that could very well keep him out longer? Fine. But give him credit for supplying the line with enough depth, some of which is coming from the likes of a guy named Leger Douzable, to allow the defense to not miss a beat during the team's three-game winning streak.

I know. You hate that he's so bullish on having EJ Manuel as the backup quarterback. You hate that nothing was done to enhance the depth at wide receiver. You're still very nervous that Tyrod Taylor could end up getting a franchise-quarterback contract without actually being a franchise quarterback.

Still, he has done plenty right to at least create the not-so-insane prospect of seeing the Bills in playoff position by midseason. That's the type of thing that gets you executive-of-the-year honors.

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